Monday, November 2, 2009

Ken Kring: Corporate Executive and now Author

If you ask anyone who has known Ken Kring well what kind of guy he is, you'll hear a variety of opinions, but the most common descriptions will include tenacious and determined. When I heard he was going to write a book on how business can work smarter, there was no doubt it would happen. Business Strategy Mapping: The Power of Knowing How It All Fits Together came out in February 2009 and has been well received. I wrote about it here previously.

My brother, Ken, graduated from Niles North in 1982. He then attended Oakton Community College while holding down a full-time job at a marketing research company. He went on to earn his BS in Business Administration from DePaul*. He then worked at Sprint and Rand McNally and started his family before returned to school again. At Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management he focused on marketing, finance, management and strategy and earned his MBA while at The Mickus Group, an organizational development consulting firm. While there, he began to understand how the elements of business can work better together through strategy mapping.

Since then Ken has worked for Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Discover Financial Services, DraftFCB, WalMart, Hacker Group and now Sears Holding Corporation, which means he's working on Kmart projects too.

Because Ken enjoys the topic and has seen business strategy mapping help organizations better visualize their goals, and the paths to reaching them, he occasionally takes on pro bono clients and leads discussions and workshops.

I recently asked Ken for some more details about his book:

Q: What inspired you write this book?
A: I was working for the CEO of a substantial for-profit health services company. He asked me to help him figure out how to best invest in the company. After I figured it out, it occurred to me that the method I'd used would work for others too.
Q: How long did it take you to write it?
A: I got the idea for the book about 13 years ago and then started actually writing it about 10 years ago. I'd written many version of it. The first were too academic. Later versions were more story-driven. The final draft took me about 6 months to get it where I wanted it.
Q: Who'd you have in mind as you wrote? Who were you writing for?
A: People like me. CEOs, entrepreneurs and others trying to figure out how it all connects and works together...and sometimes doesn't.
Q: Where did you get the stories, the "business fables", you share in the book?
A: The business fables came from lessons learned through various experiences I've had working with some really good people with very real challenges...and some were tough struggles,
Q: What kind of feedback have you gotten about the book?
A: Some have called the book common sense and others have called it radical, which is kind of amusing. Some of my favorite comments have been "This has really helped me sort though all of the chaos" and "This has really helped the left-hand know what the right-hand is doing at our company." Another is "It's great when we all share the same picture".
Q: What amuses you about some folks calling the book common sense and others calling it radical?
A: There doesn't seem to be a pattern as to which people quickly see how useful strategy mapping is. I believe it is actually easier and simpler than some think. It is essentially mapping out the conversation as to how you are going to drive any initiative from potential to profitability.
Q: Is there any specific project, or kinds of projects, you'd like to take on using business strategy mapping?
A: I like the projects where people are really interested in understanding how it all fits together and then using what they know to make plans and set goals that will make their company stronger. Past projects have included strategic planning for the organization, product development, marketing planning and organizational development.
Q: Do you have any plans for writing another book?
A: There are a couple of additional books that will be written. Working titles include "Business Fables: Lessons Learned from the Real World" and "Business Strategy Mapping: A Practioner's Guide".
For more information about the book or future discussions and workshops, contact Ken at kkring (at)

*Our mom studied business at DePaul in the 50s: Secretarial Science. I've not asked her yet if she'd worked in any Mad-Men-like environments. She worked as a secretary before she was married and then again after having her kids.

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